Tribe.net and other online communities

A little while back, I swung over to tribe.net, in response to Rob Anabolic mentioning it by displaying a list of his assigned friends. I had a look around and clicked a few things, but wasn’t all that fascinated. Sparkes also signed up, and later, so did Matt. I wrote testimonials for the three of them and registered in a few of the “tribes“, which are basically message forums around a common theme. At that point, I would have lost interest entirely. Matt has done so: he remarks that’s he’s “spent the time since trying to work out what it’s for“, and that the links between people are cool, “but neither they nor the forums are enough for me to visit regularly“. I concur entirely. However, I did note that (a) you get emailed when something specifically about you happens (someone adds a new testimonial or sends you a private note), and (b) that each tribe forum has an RSS feed (see the nasty orange XML icon next to the “Public URL” atop each tribe’s homepage). So I just subscribed to each of the tribes’ RSS feeds in my RSS aggregator and forgot about it.
This is poisonous behaviour to the whole concept of tribe.net, though. They’re trying to build a community, and I’m a parasite on that community, by refusing to get involved. Instead, I expect other people to provide interesting stuff, and then I expect it to be served up to me steaming hot and ready for my perusal. Probably I should feel guilty about this, but I don’t. There’s nothing compelling there to warrant me getting involved. Part of this is its US-centric nature: as Matt mentions, the “Listings” feature, which finds things that people have listed within a given radius of your postcode, would be useful if it recognised anything other than American zip codes. Apparently Southern California is within five miles of my house, which, barring some kind of major-league tectonic shift which I could hardly have failed to notice in spite of being at work, it ain’t.
I think one of the primary reasons why I don’t get to grips with it, though, is its web-based nature. I don’t like web applications, or at least I don’t like traditional web applications where every damned click results in a ten second wait for a page to refresh. Bloglines is good because I can use it from home and work, but if there was a decent desktop-based RSS aggregator which worked on Windows and Linux, could share its status files between one invocation and another somehow, and let me trivially open clicked links in newly-created tabs in Firefox, I’d move to it like a shot. I have to keep going back to Bloglines and clicking “My Blogs” and waiting; yes, it refreshes itself, but I have no way of knowing how long ago it did that, so I end up clicking again because I want totally up-to-date feeds when I get the time to peruse them. We really, really need to start getting web apps that use the power of browsers to act like a rich-client app, and that means not having to wait. There’s a growing swell of activity in this area, but at the moment it’s marred by everyone wanting you to use their method so they can be seen as the architects of the new wave of World Wide Web 2. This is what everyone fears XAML will be, too, and I cna’t imagine they’re wrong. I’m peripherally involved with a couple of the efforts in this direction as well, but there’s not a lot of forward progress (and, yes, I should get more involved and try to rectify that rather than carping about it. However, see above.)
Maybe there’s a bright future ahead where we’ll basically not know the difference between an application running on the web and one running on the local machine. Maybe, as a nice side benefit, that’ll displace Microsoft’s stranglehold on the desktop, and we can all be happy about that. Maybe, on the other hand, we’ll all be bickering about one thing or another until the end of time. God, I hope not.

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